On July 11, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that several biobased DOE research projects were recognized by R&D magazine as the most outstanding technology developments with promising commercial potential. According to the DOE notice, projects included in the awards were:
* Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Tissue-Specific Cell-Wall Engineering for Biofuels and Biomaterials. This suite of precision genetic tools is expected to improve crops bred for production of food, biofuels, industrial polymers, and pharmaceuticals. The technology fine-tunes lignin by manipulating chemical signals that govern plant-cell metabolism. This synthetic biology platform can enhance drought-resistance, make cattle forage more nutritious, and even coax plants or fungi to yield high-value drugs and biomaterials.
* Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, The Berkeley Lab Multiplex Chemotyping Microarray. This technique performs rapid chemical analyses of prospective biofuel crops and microbial communities by combining high-throughput micro-contact printing technology with high-fidelity vibrational spectroscopy and mass spectrometry. Its ability to identify rapidly the chemical composition and biological function in plant and animal cells is unparalleled.
* Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Super-hydro-tunable HiPAS Membranes. This new class of membrane products can selectively separate molecules in the vapor/gas phase and perform liquid-phase separations that could be especially useful in reducing the price of bio-ethanol, ethanol-gasoline blend fuels, and drop-in fuels from bio-oil processing. The membrane acts as an energy-efficient alternative to the distillation process by using a superhydrophobic or superhydrophillic surface to separate molecules.
More information is available online.
On July 3, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it is making an additional $4 billion available in loan guarantees for innovative renewable energy and energy efficiency projects located in the U.S. that avoid, reduce, or sequester greenhouse gases. Part one of the solicitation is due October 1, 2014. Copies of the solicitation and fact sheet about the solicitation are available online.
According to DOE's press release on the announcement, "the Department has identified five key technology areas of interest: advanced grid integration and storage; drop-in biofuels; waste-to-energy; enhancement of existing facilities including micro-hydro or hydro updates to existing non-powered dams; and efficiency improvement." A copy of DOE's press release is available online.
DOE's Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) hosts its seventh annual conference -- Biomass 2014: Growing the Future Bioeconomy -- July 29-30, 2014, in Washington, D.C. Co-hosted with Advanced Biofuels USA, this year's conference will take place at the Washington Convention Center. As in past years, Biomass 2014 will bring together top government officials and members of Congress -- with industry leaders and experts from across the bioenergy supply chain -- to continue ongoing dialogue about the critical challenges and key opportunities for the industry. The event will focus on the innovative technologies, priority pathways, financing strategies, and public policies needed to grow the bioeconomy of the future. Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) and the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) will be at Biomass -- stop by our table and say "Hi." More information is available online.
On July 2, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's Bioenergy Technology Office published in the Federal Register a "Request for Information (RFI) Regarding Integrated Biorefinery Lessons Learned and Best Practices."
According to the RFI, its purpose is "to solicit feedback from industry, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholders on issues related to lessons learned and best practices developed during the design, financing, construction, commissioning, startup, shakedown and operations of pilot-, demonstration-, and commercial-scale integrated biorefineries."
A copy of the RFI is available online. Comments are due by July 15, 2014.
On June 18, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced its second round of funding for Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRC) designed to promote scientific breakthroughs in energy. Under this round of funding, DOE is providing $100 million to support 32 EFRC projects throughout the country. According to DOE's press release on the announcement, the selected EFRCs "will help lay the scientific groundwork for fundamental advances in solar energy, electrical energy storage, carbon capture and sequestration, materials and chemistry by design, biosciences, and extreme environments." A copy of the press release is available online. A full list of EFRC awardees, including brief project descriptions, is available online.
On May 19, 2014, two U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) notices were published in the Federal Register. The first is a notice of an open meeting of the Biomass Research and Development Technical Advisory Committee (Committee). The Committee advises DOE and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) and priority technical biomass research and development (R&D) needs, and makes recommendations to the Biomass Research and Development Board. The meeting is scheduled to take place on June 5, 2014, from 8:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m., and June 6, 2014, from 8:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at the Omni Shoreham, 2500 Calvert Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008. A copy of the notice is available online.
The purpose of the meeting is to provide advice and guidance that promotes R&D leading to the production of biobased fuels and biobased products. The agenda is expected to include the following:
* Update on USDA Biomass R&D Activities;
* Update on DOE Biomass R&D Activities;
* Update on the BRDI;
* Update on the DOE Loan Program Solicitations;
* Update on the BioEconomy Initiative;
* Overview of the BioEconomy Initiative Analysis;
* Feedstocks panel on fuels from corn stover; and
* An overview and application of the USDA Feedstock Readiness Level Tool.
The second notice is a solicitation for nominations for candidates to fill vacancies on the Committee. Nominations must be submitted by June 9, 2014. A detailed description of the Committee and the nomination process is provided in the notice, which is available online.
By law, the Committee must include, among others, an individual affiliated with the biofuels industry and an individual affiliated with the biobased industrial and commercial products industry. According to the notice, while nominations will be accepted for other categories, nominations this year are needed for the following categories in order to address the Committee's needs: (E) an individual affiliated with a commodity trade association; (F) individuals affiliated with environmental or conservation organizations; (J) an individual with expertise in agricultural economics; (K) an individual with expertise in plant biology and biomass feedstock development; and (M) at the option of the points of contact, other members.
EPA is vigorously questioning results of a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-funded study that concludes ethanol produced from crop residues such as corn stover can have higher lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than conventional gasoline, arguing that the findings are based on an "extremely unlikely scenario" of unsubstantiated agricultural practices. RFA is also highly critical of the new study, claiming its "methodology is fundamentally flawed and its conclusions are highly suspect." RFA made available a useful fact sheet that is available online.
The DOE-funded study was published on April 20, 2014, in Nature Climate Change. The study claims to demonstrate that ethanol produced from corn stover and other crop residues does not meet EPA's criteria for achieving a 60 percent GHG emission reduction compared to gasoline in order for the fuels to qualify under the RFS. The study could raise questions over EPA's ability to raise the cellulosic target in the final version of the 2014 RFS, especially if the fuel's GHGs disqualify them under the program.
EPA is also refuting the study as hypothetical, and lacking a firm basis in current agriculture practices. An EPA spokeswoman reportedly stated the "paper is based on a hypothetical assumption that 100 percent of corn stover in a field is harvested; an extremely unlikely scenario that is inconsistent with recommended agricultural practices." More information is available online.
On April 15, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it would provide up to $10 million to promote the production of "advanced biofuels, substitutes for petroleum-based feedstocks, and bioproducts made from renewable, non-food-based biomass, such as agricultural residues and woody biomass." For more information, and to apply for this opportunity, please visit DOE's Funding Opportunity Exchange website. A copy of the press release is available online.
The Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA), which closes on April 22, 2014. Through the FOA, the Advanced Manufacturing Office of DOE's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Office seeks to establish a Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Composites Materials and Structures. According to the FOA, "[t]he technical topic area for this Institute is low cost, energy efficient manufacturing of fiber reinforced polymer composites. The Institute will target continuous or discontinuous, primarily carbon and glass fiber systems, with thermoset or thermoplastic resin materials. These types of composites are foundational technologies that are broadly applicable and pervasive in multiple industries and markets with potentially transformational technical and economic impact." A copy of the FOA is available online.
On February 3, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy announced that up to $12 million in funding would be made available to advance the production of cost-competitive, high-performance carbon finer material from renewable non-food based feedstocks. Feedstocks could include agriculture residues and woody biomass. This funding supports DOE's Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative. A copy of DOE's press release on this announcement is available online.